How Does Cannabis Impact Fertility? It Depends on Who You Ask

Doctors are torn on the matter.
How Does Cannabis Impact Fertility? It Depends on Who You Ask
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For one reason or another, many of the world’s most populous nations are seeing their populations decline.

The most telling country is Japan. As of 2018, the average number of children born in the country had declined for 37 straight years. The country has sought out alternative methods to offset the population reduction. This includes using robots to as part of its workforce. The government has also taken to enticing the remaining population, offering financial benefits to encourage people to procreate. 

The United States is seeing a decline as well. Currently, the U.S. is in its fourth year of declining births. In 2018, the total number fell 2% from the previous year, accounting for roughly 3,788,000 births. The total is the lowest one-year total for the country in 32 years

Reasons for the decline vary by country. However, several justifications seem to overlap when discussing work and the economy. 

In Japan, possible reasons include overworked, unromantic young people. Others have pointed towards a lack of jobs being a prime culprit. In the U.S., some possible causes include positives, such as a decline in teen pregnancy. Then there are long-standing negatives, like economic uncertainty and long-term wage stagnation. 

Even when a family attempts to conceive a child, the process can be an ordeal. While some will find success in short order, others may spend months or years trying to conceive. On average, a woman aged 25 to 35 has a 20% chance of getting pregnant each cycle. By the time they are 40, the number drops to eight percent. 

With cannabis all the rage, some have begun to wonder if the plant can do for fertility what it has seemingly done for numerous others.

Medical professionals seem to hold differing opinions on the matter. Some physicians point towards evidence where cannabis use could prove beneficial. Others cite findings that suggest cannabis should be excluded when trying to conceive. Meanwhile, some doctors believe there is no connection between marijuana and fertility at all. 

Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron’s evidence suggests that couples with existing fertility issues may find cannabis detrimental to their efforts. The double board-certified reproductive endocrinologist cited recent results from the Canadian Medical Association Journal regarding delayed ovulation among other issues. The physician also pointed towards several human and animal studies that suggest male cannabis users could experience a drop in sperm count.

Dr. Hervé Damas, founder of Florida’s Grassroots Wellness, shared similar feelings.”Research has shown that cannabis consumption can decrease sperm count, concentration, functionality and shape. All these lead to a decrease in the sperms’ ability to fertilize.” 

While Dr. Hirshfeld-Cytron suggests couples steer clear, the evidence isn’t so cut and dry for both genders, she pointed out. “Research thus far has found a distinct parallel between cannabis and male fertility, while the impact of cannabis on female fertility and pregnancy is more uncertain.”

Dr. Hirshfeld-Cytron and other physicians cited semen analysis for making males easier to evaluate. She discussed the struggles of analyzing women at this time.

“For women, assessing fertility potential is more complex and not nearly as straightforward in terms of measurement. Research thus far has found a distinct parallel between cannabis and male fertility, while the impact of cannabis on female fertility and pregnancy is more uncertain.”

Dr. Damas stated that cannabis has been shown to decrease the production of hormones beginning at the hypothalamus, adversely impacting a woman’s fertility potential. The result is the decreased production of hormones like follicle-stimulating hormones, estrogen and progesterone. 

That said, some do see potential positives in certain cannabinoids. Dr. Carlen Costa is a sexologist and relationship psychotherapist. Dr. Costa pointed towards a 2019 Harvard study that found “significantly higher concentrations of sperm” when comparing men who smoked marijuana to those who never have. 

The doctor touched on THC for men as well, noting that additional findings are required. “…longitudinal studies are what is going to prove the efficacy and impact that cannabis has.”

Dr. Costa said pregnant women may benefit from CBD. She noted the cannabinoid’s reputation as an anti-inflammatory and its analgesic properties in particular. “[CBD] has been especially praised to help women during their first trimester with nausea, and during labor to help ease contractions,” added the physician. 

However, THC is not for pregnant women, according to the doctor. Dr. Costa referenced a 2018 Canadian government study showing THC could adversely impact menstrual cycles and lower egg implantation. 

Other medical professionals, like Dr. Michele Ross, a Ph.D. neuroscientist, don’t see a connection between cannabis and fertility. Dr. Ross pointed towards a 2018 PRESTO study which found “little overall association” between cannabis use and conceiving a child.

Despite the findings, the doctor sides with caution for couples attempting to have a child. 

She recommended couples trying to conceive cut down or eliminate smoking altogether, or risk impacting the chances of having a baby. “Toxins from inhaling any type of smoke, including cannabis smoke, can damage DNA in your sperm or eggs,” she explained.

Some parents told High Times that cannabis helped their fertility journey in different ways. 

One mother, who asked to remain nameless, explained how giving up cannabis seemed to correlate with her getting pregnant after previous struggles. She recalled that her husband stopped smoking to become a firefighter. Soon after, she was pregnant. “It could all be a coincidence, but if you are having trouble conceiving, you should definitely try it,” she recommended.

Alexis Rosenbaum is a 32-year-old hopeful mother who has been attempting for five years. Her interest in cannabinoids has led to studying cannabis extensively and using it. Alexis and her husband have done two rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and one round of IVF so far with no pregnancy. 

The ordeal has been trying on them both. For Alexis, CBD has helped her cope with the process. “Cannabis and CBD has helped me stay relaxed, reduce stress, and get me comfortable and open to alternatives.” She elaborated, “It has helped me process the experience and my emotions both by myself and with my husband.”

The effects of cannabis on a couple trying to conceive remains uncertain. While certain evidence suggests it may be best to avoid cannabis when attempting to have a baby, others can and do point to contrasting findings. 

Around the time this article was set for submission, the federal government added a new twist to the topic. In August of 2019, Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a warning concerning marijuana and pregnancy and young adults, saying no amount is safe for either. 

“This ain’t your mother’s marijuana,” said Adams in an interview. “It’s a fundamental different product that increases the danger and the risk, particularly to young people and pregnant women,” he said while on Hill.TV. 

Research around the subject is likely to continue for some time.

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